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Victory for two journalists as political supporter jailed for assault

(MISA/IFEX) - On 10 November 2010, media reports stated that Lusaka Province ruling party Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) youth chairperson Chris Chalwe had been jailed for one year with hard labour for common assault by the magistrates' court.

According to reports in "The Post" of 10 November and the" Zambia Daily Mail" of 11 November monitored by MISA Zambia, Chalwe was, however, acquitted on a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm by Senior Resident Magistrate David Simusamba.

Chalwe stood charged with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm contrary to section 248 of the Penal Code chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. In count one, Chalwe is alleged to have assaulted "The Post" newspaper journalist Chibaula David Silwamba on 29 July 2009, in Lusaka.

In count two, Chalwe is accused of having assaulted "Times of Zambia" senior reporter Anthony Mulowa on the same day.

Passing judgment, Magistrate Simusamba convicted Chalwe on a charge of common assault but acquitted him on the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm because the prosecution failed to establish that there was physical harm inflicted on the two victims.

Magistrare Simusamba said the medical reports cast a doubt on his mind. "I note that the offence committed was of a political nature and that it was becoming rampant to our young democracy," he said.

The magistrate said Chalwe had a right to appeal within 14 days.

Earlier, when defence lawyer Keith Mukata was about to mitigate, Magistrate Simusamba said there was no mitigation because he had already mitigated for him.


BACKGROUND:

MMD party supporters assaulted journalists from the state-owned "Times of Zambia" newspaper and "The Post", an independent newspaper, at Lusaka International Airport, while the press was waiting to cover the arrival of President Rupiah Banda from Uganda. Reporters Mulowa and Richard Mulonga, from "Times of Zambia", and Silwamba and Collins Phiri from "The Post" were attacked on 29 July 2009. President Banda condemned the action and MISA and other media associations called for the arrest and prosecution of the offenders.

On 7 August 2009, MISA Zambia and other media bodies undertook a protest march to seek the government's interventions on a number of physical attacks on journalists by political supporters. The journalists presented a petition to Zambian Vice President George Kunda at Mulungushi International Conference Center in Lusaka. Kunda received the petition from the media associations on behalf of President Banda who had travelled to South Africa for a medical check up and talks with the President of that country, Jacob Zuma.

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